Spiced Red Lentils with Rice

Dal with rice

So, you know those meals that aren’t exactly a showstopper, but taste amazing?  This is definitely one of those dishes.  It really doesn’t look very pretty, or maybe even appealing, but man oh man, it tastes soo good.  And, it makes the house smell amazing.  The red lentils become creamy, perfectly spiced, and just downright delicious.  I love to serve it over cooked white rice.

I have been trying to find recipes to use my fresh garden tomatoes that seem to just keep coming. (I am not complaining!)  This was a perfect way to incorporate many small ones.  This dish is a great, healthy, and quick meal for those busy weeknights.  And, it makes killer leftovers.  Win win!

Spiced Red Lentils with Rice

Yield: About 8-10 servings

For the spice mixture

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like spicy, use more)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

For the lentils

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or grapeseed, or canola oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped (I used a combination of small romas and cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • cooked white rice


In a small bowl, mix together the spice mixture.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in the spice mixture and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds.  Mix in the onion and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the water and lentils and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender and resemble a thick purée, 20-25 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes, parsley, tomatoes, butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Stir gently until combined.  Adjust seasonings if necessary.  Serve over rice.

Source: Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook


Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

I seriously can’t believe it’s September 1st today.  Where did the summer go!?  I am already looking forward to cozy sweaters and warm cups of coffee.  But, I am not really ready to move on to pumpkin and Halloween like the stores are insisting upon.  My daughter started her first day of first grade today, and my son started his first day of his last year of pre-school.  OMG!  They are are growing up way too quickly.  But, I must say, I secretly did a little mental dance in my head after my daughter got on the bus.  Isn’t that horrible?  Maybe a little selfish, but I always look forward to the times I get just with baby.  The house is actually quiet for more than 30 seconds when it’s just her and I at home…

Our tomatoes are just now turning ripe.  I must say, I am pretty excited.  I was so afraid, that after the deer snipped a lot of the tips, that the tomatoes weren’t going to produce.  Alas, they look pretty happy still!  Now that I have several different kinds of vegetables ripe in the garden, I am trying to take advantage of them to their fullest.  That means, lots of vegetable dishes.  Especially since I seem to have monstrous zucchini every time I go out the garden. I am serious.  I swear they magically grow between the morning and the evening, because I go out there usually twice a day.

Moving on.

Pasta with toasted corn, tomatoes and bacon

This pasta dish is the perfect way to enjoy fresh, in season vegetables.  Pasta and vegetables are my favorite combination.  Oh, and cheese!  That is very important.  So is bacon.  I mean really, you can’t go wrong with chopped bacon with pasta.  Chop up some fresh herbs, and you have yourself a quick and easy meal.  But definitely not lacking in flavor.  I can’t wait to make this again.

Farfalle with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Tomatoes

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 5 ears corn, husked and kernels cut from cobs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil


Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, discard the rest.  Add the corn to the skillet with the reserved fat, as well as 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir well and cook until spotty brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt.  Cook until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Add the bacon, corn mixture, grated Parmesan, and basil.  Toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency.  Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan.

Source: Adapted from Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Penne with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Boursin Cheese

Pasta with boursin

Summer is the time when I embrace pasta loaded with fresh vegetables.  Fresh zucchini, tomatoes, basil- yes please!  I love how zucchini and tomatoes are so versatile.  You can cook, roast, grill, or even leave them raw!  And they taste so dang good.  Needless to say, they are the perfect addition to any summer meal.

Pasta with boursin

Boursin is one of my favorite, very rare indulgences.  My mom introduced it to me as a kid, and ever since, I have been hooked.  It is so creamy, seasoned with my favorite herbs and garlic.  It’s like the upgraded version times 100 of cream cheese and chive dip.  My dad always served chive dip with crackers and carrots when I was a kid- it was my all-time favorite snack.  (He now serves that to my kids as a snack when they visit and they totally love it.)  So, when I saw this recipe that has melted Boursin cheese with pasta and fresh veggies, I put it on the weekly menu immediately.  No questions asked.

My husband, who isn’t a big cheese person still enjoyed this dish, but definitely not to the extent that I did.  Maybe even boarder-line obsession.  I can’t help it, I love cheese!  The Boursin cheese melted when mixed into the pasta dish, so it covered everything.  Swoon!  This is a wonderful dish to incorporate fresh summer vegetables and your love of cheese all into one, easy meal!  The perfect week-night meal.

Penne with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Boursin Cheese

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/2-inch thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 (5.2 oz.) package Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil


Adjust an oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler to high.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and brush with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Toss zucchini in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, then spread evenly onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven and broil, stirring occasionally until lightly brown around the edges but still firm in the center, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring 4-quarts of water to boil in a large pot.  Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the tomatoes, Boursin cheese, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water to the pasta and toss well to combine.  Carefully stir in the zucchini, basil and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add remaining cooking water as needed to adjust consistency.  Serve with additional chopped basil if desired.

Source: Adapted from The Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwiches

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwich

It’s amazing how quickly summer is passing by.  I feel like I have been in a whirl wind.  I feel so busy, but at the same time, I wonder what I am actually doing.  Do you ever feel like that?  I guess it’s maybe because cleaning/washing dishes, cooking, baby care, running errands, shuttling kids back and forth between day care and camp, and more cleaning seem to consume my entire day.  Oh wait, we can’t forget about laundry!  That is something that never stops.  Well, maybe that and dishes.  Especially since we don’t have a dishwasher right now.

My two girls just had birthdays.  Baby just turned one!! Ahh, where did the time go!  She has been on the brink of walking for probably two months now, but doesn’t want to walk unless I am on the other end encouraging her.  So cute.  And my eldest just turned six.  Say what?!

Enough of my life, and on to these mouth-watering sandwiches.  So, remember how I told you to make those hoagie rolls?  Yeah, well now, you need to make these sandwiches.  That is my request.  It would be even better if you used your garden vegetables! Speaking of which, I went out to weed my garden this morning, and the deer had a field day last night.  Bye bye broccoli!  Needless to say I cursed them the entire time I was weeding.  Darn deer. Ah, I digress.

Roasted Zucchini and tomato sandwich

This sandwich is pretty simple actually.  I seasoned some zucchini and tomatoes, then roasted them until they were tender.  Next, I slathered the bread with homemade hummus (my favorite kind), made a bed of spinach for the zucchini and tomatoes, then finished with a slice of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese.  Fab-u-lous.  And, these make killer leftovers the next day.  These would be awesome to take on a picnic.  Or to work.  Any way you eat these, or any meal, you will love them!

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sandwiches

Yield: about 4-5 sandwiches

  • 2-3 medium zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • rosemary, fresh or dried
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • hummus, store bought or homemade
  • hoagie rolls, store bought, or homemade
  • cheddar cheese and/or Monterey jack cheese
  • spinach


Slice the zucchini about 1/4-inch thick.  Place in a bowl with the 2 teaspoons salt and toss to coat.  Let sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes to allow the salt to extract the excess moisture.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Remove the zucchini from the bowl and place on a paper towel or clean cloth.  Press another paper towel over the zucchini to blot away moisture.

Place the tomatoes and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle granulated garlic, salt and pepper over each slice.  Sprinkle rosemary over the tomatoes.  Place in the preheated oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until softened, turning the zucchini half way through cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

To assemble the sandwiches, slice rolls in half, length-wise.  Spread hummus on both cut sides.  Place a handful of spinach on bottom slice, layer on a few slices of tomatoes and zucchini, then top with cheese and remaining slice of bread.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for several hours.  Store any unused tomatoes or zucchini in an air-tight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Island Bakes Original

Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

This recipe is something I saw and couldn’t wait for the chance to make it. I’m always on the lookout for healthy, filling recipes. It’s a kind of killing-two-birds-with-one stone type of deal. I made it for myself for lunch because everyone has been on a sort of grumpy dinner track lately. My son doesn’t want to touch dinner at all lately, even if he really likes the dish. The days are cold, long, dark and tiring. In other words, everyone is getting tired of winter. Even my daughter is talking about summer all the time and wishing it was warm. On the upside of the never ending winter, there is more sunlight! Waking up at 6 am to get everything ready in time for the bust at 7:05, I am actually waking up to sunlight! Not pitch black anymore. That always makes waking up much easier. And, it’s still light out at 4:30! Woot woot! Perhaps there is an end in sight? (Actually, I kind of like the snow. But not the cold.)

Back to this dish. It is full of great flavor. And I finally found a use for the pearled couscous I have had stashed away in the pantry for longer than I’d like to think. The lentils are a great filler. And the addition of my all-time favorite spice; ground cumin, makes it all that much better. Yeah, I am kind of obsessed with it. This dish makes a great lunch or dinner!

Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 1-2 cups dried lentils (If you like a lot of lentils, use 2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • dash of garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or cilantro


In a small saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water. Bring to boil over high heat. Partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the lentils are cooked through and tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, stir in the onion. Cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, cumin, turmeric and garlic powder just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and couscous. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and partially cover. Gently simmer until the wanter is mostly absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Just before all the water is absorbed, add the shredded carrots, zucchini, cooked lentils and parsley. Stir until completely combined. Let cook for a few more minutes until everything is heated through. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve.

Source: Adapted from Three Many Cooks

Fusilli Caesar Salad


With all these crazy snow storms we have been having lately, I have been trying to stay prepared in case we lose power. With several feet of snow on the ground, high winds, and slippery roads, I am surprised that we haven’t lost it yet! (Knock on wood.) There was one big storm that they predicated to be huge and to be prepared for major power outages. (You know how they like to get excited about storms.) So, I spent the day before the storm running around, doing everything that required power. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, cooking, drawing off water, you name it! I made a big pot of soup that could be put on the stove to warm up if there wasn’t power. I also prepared this pasta salad to have ready in the fridge, if needed.


Well, we never lost power. It may have flickered a few times, but nothing came of it. I am not disappointed though! It’s nice to lose power for a little time, but not for days. I like running water and refrigeration too much! I was more pleased about having lots of fresh, powdery snow to play in!


Even though we didn’t lose power, we still got to enjoy this pasta salad. Caesar salad with pasta? Brilliant! This was a fabulous, light dinner. And it made an excellent lunch the next day. This would be a great dish to serve at a cookout (wait, what are those again?) in the summer. Or to mix up your typical caesar salad. Either way, you’ll love it!


Fusilli Caesar Salad

Yield: About 7-10 servings

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

For the salad

  • 1 pound fusilli or rotini pasta, cooked to al dente then cooled
  • 2 romaine hearts, chopped (I used a romaine mix because that is all the store had at the time, and it was just fine!)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


For the dressing, pulse the garlic in a food processor until minced. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth. With the motor running, add the oil until incorporated. Add the parmesan cheese and pulse until mostly smooth. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked and cooled pasta and the romaine together until combined. Pour the dressing over the salad, add the Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Source: Dressing adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook, salad from Taste and Tell

Chicken Taco Salad

Taco Salad

For some strange reason, I have never been big into the taco salads. Perhaps the idea of eating greasy hamburger in a salad isn’t very appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some taco meat, but in a taco. All I can imagine is the lettuce getting wilted, warm and greasy. But maybe that’s what makes them so appealing? I don’t know.

A few weeks ago, I had an “aha!” moment. Why not use seasoned chicken in place of the hamburger! I know that I am way behind on the taco salad wagon. But, when I menu planned, I was SO excited to make taco salad. I de-boned a couple of chicken breasts that I have stored in our freezer, seasoned them, and cooked them up. The chicken mixed in with loads of veggies, served with corn chips, was the perfect meal in my books. It was exactly what I was looking for. I mixed up a little tomato and lime dressing to drizzle over. Delicious! I couldn’t wait to have it again for lunch the next day.

The chicken makes this meal that much healthier. But, if you want even healthier, bake the chicken instead of pan frying.

Chicken Taco Salad

Yield: about 6 servings

For the chicken

  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • about 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing

  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

For the salad

  • 9 oz. romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, cooked and cooled
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled (if not organic), and diced
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • corn chips for serving, or broken taco shells


Season each side of the chicken breasts with the all spices and salt and pepper (I just do a healthy sprinkling of each). In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the oil. Once the butter is melted, place the chicken breasts in the pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides and completely cooked through, about 8-10 minutes per side. If the chicken starts to burn, turn the heat down and cover. Place the chicken on a cutting board and let cool slightly before dicing.

To make the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the dressing into a small pitcher or jar, cover, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the salad, spread the chopped lettuce on a large platter or bowl. Gently mix in the corn, tomato, avocado, carrots, cucumber, and diced chicken. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Scoop the salad into individual bowls. Crush chips over the salad and drizzle dressing over the top. Serve.

Island Bakes Original